Natural Nano-Structures on Insects - Possible Functions of Ordered Arrays Characterized by Atomic Force Microscopy
Naturally occurring nano-structures is a much-neglected, but potentially rich, source of products that meet specifications imposed by natural selection. While the pharmaceutical industry has long recognized the value of natural compounds, the emerging industries based on nanotechnology have so far made little use of 'free' technology that has been 'invented' over evolutionary time-scales and driven by the imperatives of species survival. Ordered hexagonal packed array structures on cicada (e.g., Pflatoda claripennis) and termite (e.g., family Rhinotermitidae) wings have been investigated in this study. The spacings range from 200 to 1000 nm. The structures tend to have a rounded shape at the apex and protrude some 150-350 nm out from the surface plane. Wing structures with spacings at the lower end of the range are most likely optimized to serve as an anti-reflective coating (natural 'stealth technology') but may also act as a self-cleaning coating (the Lotus effect). Structures with spacings at the upper end of the range may provide mechanical strength to prevent load failure under flight and/or aid in the aerodynamic efficiency of the insect. This study demonstrates the multi-purpose design of natural structures.
Applied Surface Science